Sports Night ran for just two years. I gotta say, It always seemed like a weird fit for ABC.
Yeah. Sports Night was on right between The Drew Carey Show and Spin City. ABC would tell me, “You’re losing 20 percent of Drew Carey’s audience.” I would tell them, “I don’t think so. I think I’m losing 100 percent of Drew Carey’s audience.”
Kapow! Take that, people who think Ryan Stiles is funny! Sports Night may very well be the greatest TV show ever. Also, it's probably the only show I ever truly got angry about the premature cancellation of.
[Barack Obama] is a man who—the Jeremiah Wright of it all aside—was clearly paying attention in church. I don’t need to tell you that I’m a big fan of oratory. A big part of leadership is the goose-bump experience. We’ve been missing that.
You mean hearing an overwhelmed man-child trip over his words doesn't inspire awe? Didn't Sorkin get the memo that leaders that inspire us have been replaced by leaders we'd want to have a beer with? I mean, that talking point is almost 5 years old!
Why didn’t Studio 60 work?
I made too many mistakes. I would give anything to go back and get another bite of that apple. Basically, to use a sports analogy, you can have the best team in football playing the worst team in football. But if the best team in football throws four interceptions, they’re not going to win.
That sounds a little arrogant.
I’m helped by a staff of people who have great ideas, but the scripts aren’t written by committee. I was too angry when I wrote Studio 60. The show became like the cover of Abbey Road. Everybody was trying to figure out who this character was in real life or what that incident was trying to be. But the anger—it was a post-9/11 anger. We were going through a time when the television networks were so sensitive toward appearing patriotic. And patriotism was just being questioned all over the place. It just seemed like the wheels had come off our national culture.
Do you feel guilty about Studio 60’s failure?
I felt like I had let so many people down—from Warner Bros. and NBC to the cast and crew. You live and die with these things. It is a feeling that you can’t look these people in the eye anymore. Someone like Matt Perry.
It’s tough to feel bad for Matthew Perry.
Exactly. Yet you do.
He nailed part of it. It's not that when something is upsetting Sorkin, he's traditionally subtle about it in his scripts or anything. It's just that -and he recognizes this- that he was especially ham-fisted with Studio 60.
The rest of it, which he only kind of alludes to with his "Abbey Road" comment, is that the awkward reenactment of his relationship with Kristin Chenoweth played out horribly and did more to cripple the show than anything else.
Sometimes I wonder how I managed to make it through the entire series. It's firmly behind us now, though, thanks to this (sort of) apology. Now let's get to making the next Sports Night, Aaron. I would appreciate it greatly.